Geelong Healthcare Precinct set to boost Norlane’s growth

Over a decade in the making, a new healthcare precinct opened late last year in Geelong’s northern suburbs as developer interest skyrockets in the fast-growing Norlane area.

Located at 21–29 Princes Highway, opposite Bunnings’ busy Geelong North outlet, the $20-million Geelong Healthcare Precinct comprises high-quality medical, dental and childcare services, not to mention a distinctive architectural landmark and community hub for local residents and the City of Greater Geelong.

The development is the project of local dentist Dr Rashi Gupta and her husband, Aseem Gupta, who in 2011 bought Norlane Dental, a dental practice on Sparks Road dating back to the 1970s. What began as a plan to relocate the business to the Princes Highway quickly grew into a much larger vision, says Dr Gupta, “to invest in Norlane and provide a healthcare precinct the community can be proud of”.

Mr Gupta made it his personal mission to go door-knocking in the area, negotiating with neighbouring homeowners on the Princes Highway corner block to acquire their properties. Though it took nearly a decade, Mr Gupta ultimately successfully bought the entire 1.5 acre site, and demolition commenced in 2021.

In 2020, the Guptas engaged DS Architects to design and deliver the three buildings that make up the precinct: a dental facility with a ground-floor cafe and first-floor day surgery, a medical clinic, and a Montessori childcare centre.

“Aseem and Rashi have created a space for a whole community that recognises the larger context of where it’s located,” says DS Architects managing director Peter Schreuder, whose team inherited and completely reworked an earlier precinct design in close collaboration with the Guptas.

“They were one step ahead, seeing the potential of the neighbourhood 10 years ago when today it’s earmarked as a growth area for development.”

DS Architects’ design allows a broad range of services to coexist in the precinct, with the three buildings functionally distinct yet unified by striking white brick, angled roofs, timber louvres and curved detailing.

“The white brick is a bold move for a precinct of this kind, but we liked how it connects the site with its residential surrounds – it’s much more inviting than shiny metal cladding,” says Schreuder.

With high visibility from the freeway, Geelong Healthcare Precinct is purposefully positioned to feel open and inviting to the public.

The revamped Norlane Dental practice is one of the largest of its kind in the region. Hosting up to 11 practitioners and offering comprehensive dental services under one roof, the new practice also includes access to the upstairs day surgery to facilitate treatments requiring general anaesthetic, dental or otherwise.

The medical centre includes general practitioners, a pathology lab, a pharmacy and radiology services. Purpose-built for collaborative patient care and effective referral pathways, the centre offers flexible tenancy options for growing medical businesses wanting to make the most of this up-and-coming location.

Next door, the Montessori Minds Childcare Centre is the first of its kind in Norlane. The centre’s design introduces pastels to the precinct’s otherwise muted colour scheme, drawing attention to the building from the exterior perspective. Accommodating up to 127 children, the centre features six indoor playrooms and outdoor play areas across both levels.

Sustainability measures across the site include rooftop solar panels, double-glazed external windows, and a continuous monitoring strategy to measure the buildings’ efficiency. At least 95 per cent of all timber used is recycled, and 80 per cent of the building materials used were produced or manufactured in Australia.

Central to the precinct design is Vastu Shastra, an ancient Indian system of guiding principles for spatial design to integrate architecture with nature.

While this philosophy was new to DS Architects – not to mention an extra layer for compliance – Schreuder says it was a welcome challenge and a great opportunity for the practice to incorporate this culturally significant, ancient design thinking into their work.

“Vastu Shastra means something to our client, and as architects, it’s our job to take that philosophy and incorporate it meaningfully into the design.”

The construction process was not without its challenges, with the contracted builder entering voluntary administration in the final months of the build. Along with 58 of Lloyd Group’s other active projects, the construction of Geelong Healthcare Precinct came to an unexpected halt in March 2023. But within three weeks, the Guptas had engaged a new builder to complete construction.

“The changeover was an enormous challenge, but the team stayed resilient,” says Schreuder. “In the end, Aseem and Rashi achieved their vision of a cohesive precinct that contributes to and elevates the area.”

Dr Gupta agrees. “Geelong Healthcare Precinct is all about making Norlane a better place to be. Our community has given so much to us – what we’re doing now is giving back.”

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